Solar power offers us the ability to maintain our modern lifestyles while preserving the purity and sanctity of the natural world. The panels provide reliable power without the pollution associated with coal- and oil-powered generation. The new community solar project in South China is a good example of this, and gives us a glimpse of what could be if Maine enacted effective solar legislation.
Sure, members of the project benefit by saving money on electricity costs. But non-solar ratepayers save money, too — as much as $4,000 for every kilowatt installed over the life of the panels. These solar projects also support local installation and maintenance jobs, which can’t be outsourced.
Unfortunately, community solar farms are currently limited to nine people. This limit keeps solar farms around the state to a small number, and acts as a barrier for those who don’t want to — or can’t — install solar on their property, which impacts low- and moderate-income households.
A bill by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, would remove the limit, allowing more Mainers to take advantage of solar power. It would also restore the state’s solar rebate program, and preserve net metering to further open up solar opportunities to the state’s businesses and residents.
If legislators fail to act again this year, solar will remain out of reach for many Mainers, as will the jobs that come with solar expansion. What a shame for the rural areas that are not enjoying the economic growth seen in the southern part of the state. And a loss to the purity and sanctity of the natural world.
Last year Rep. Tim Theriault, R-China, voted against solarizing Maine. I hope he will reconsider this year, and support Berry’s bill. Please encourage him to do the right thing.